The Breaded Pork Tenderloin is big in Indiana and Iowa – big as in size and big as in popular. These sandwiches can sometimes be found in other parts of the Midwest, especially in Illinois, which is sandwiched between these two pork powerhouses, but there is no place that displays the level of devotion to this sandwich greater than Indiana and Iowa. It has been estimated that breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches are served in at least fifty percent of Indiana restaurants. This sandwich is also listed on many menus in Iowa. In Indiana and Iowa, customers will ask for a tenderloin sandwich assuming it is breaded and that it is pork (an assumption that can lead to disappointment when traveling out of pork country). People in both states take pride in their prized sandwich and are politely dismissive of other state’s claims of pork prowess. Where is the true home of the Breaded Pork tenderloin Sandwich? It is really too close to call – this sandwich belongs to both Hawkeyes and Hoosiers.
Many experts place the birthplace of the pork tenderloin sandwich in Huntington, Indiana and credit Nicholas Freinstein as the founding father of this heartland creation. He opened a restaurant, Nick’s Kitchen in 1908 after years of peddling his sandwiches on the street. Legend has it that his brother Jake, having lost function of his hands to frostbite after an unfortunate wintertime carriage accident, used the stumps of his forearms to tenderize the pork. Today, pork tenderloin purveyors have found alternate means to tenderize the meat but it is still as good.
The basic breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is generally starts a large cut of pork loin. The meat is tenderized until it is the desired thickness, usually 1/4 inch thick but sometimes up to a 1/2 inch. The breading is customarily a simple mix of water, flour, salt, and pepper. Some places will add cornmeal or another special ingredient but the standard is to keep it simple. The sandwich is typically fried or deep-fried. The tenderloin is always significantly bigger than the bun which is typically a hamburger bun or sometimes a Kaiser roll. The condiments of choice are basic – usually pickles, often onions, and occasionally lettuce. In Indiana – expect mustard and/or mayonnaise while in Iowa it is most often mustard and/or ketchup. What a difference a few hundred miles can make. The sandwich is always a meal and taking some to go will have no negative effect on ones reputations with the locals.